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McLaren not expecting change of fortune at Sepang

21 March 2013

The McLaren team is expecting to face a repeat of its Albert Park struggles as the 2013 F1 season moves swiftly on to its second stop in Malaysia this weekend.

Both Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were stymied by the characteristics of the all-new MP4-28 on the streets of Melbourne, with the Briton salvaging a couple of points in ninth place and his team-mate failing to overcome a qualifying tyre gamble and make it into the top ten at all. While the surprisingly cool temperatures and uneven road surface in Australia were given as contributing factors to the team's woe, sporting director Sam Michael is not expecting the heat, humidity and billiard table-smooth Sepang circuit to provide an immediate turnaround in fortune.

“It is a different temperature, [a] very different circuit layout and different tyres but, in terms of where it puts us, I don't know,” he told a media phone-in on the eve of the second round, “I suspect it won't change the order too much. It'll be a similar order to what we saw in Melbourne and in testing.”

Much has been made about the possibility of McLaren switching back to its race-winning MP4-27 should the latest car not work as planned, but Michael was quick to echo team principal Martin Whitmarsh's belief that there are bigger gains to be made from persevering with the 2013 model.

“There are various options open to us but, currently, all of our energies are focused on the 28A,” the Australian said, referring to the car's full drawing room designation, “It is a dynamic programme, and that's what we think will offer us the best chance over the course of the season and, at this point in time, that's where all our efforts are going.”

Despite the short turnaround between Australia and Malaysia, Michael revealed that McLaren was taking new parts to Sepang, both planned and a result of the findings of Melbourne.

“We have two lines of new parts,” he confirmed, “One is normal development that was going to come anyway to the car, and then we've got some experimental stuff to work through on Friday, some of which is just background test items to help us further understand [the car].”

“When you are looking for performance as we are, you look everywhere, so we have programmes on everything. We have a good idea of what we need to concentrate on but, until we've got on top of that, then we'll keep our minds open to everything.”

While the result last weekend left Button lamenting an early blow to his hopes of adding a second world title to the one he won in 2009, Michael insists that what McLaren learned from Melbourne will already help it be more productive in Malaysia.

Regardless of the success or otherwise of the new parts, Michael believes the tough lessons learned in Melbourne and the car data accrued there should help make for a much smoother time in Kuala Lumpur.

“We obviously have more understanding of the car and that actually allows you to manage the race weekend better,” he explained, “I think, even if we went through Melbourne again, we could probably do a better job just because you have more data.”


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